Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Friday, August 24

This morning, we had breakfast at 7 AM in the local Lebanese restaurant. A group of Lebanese Shiite businessmen (from Southern Lebanon) were eating breakfast at one table. I asked for a menu and was told: “bread with cheese.” Supposedly they also served omelets and coffee, but we were served bread with cheese and tea. It was delicious--excellent cheese on excellent flat bread. Toward the end of breakfast, some of the businessmen drove away in their Mercedes. The rest stayed to play cards. One of them, whom we had met at Ali’s, paid for our breakfast.

We took a taxi to Saf-Cacao and they drove us to a neighboring business, run by an Ivoirian. They were still receiving trucks of product. In fact, 25 trucks were lined up.

When a truck pulls in, the man with the moisture meter goes to work, categorizing bags by their moisture contents. They separate the bags of beans into different piles. For example, 9% moisture beans should not be mixed with 12% moisture beans because drying both together would result in the 9% beans scorching.

The man with the sampling tube then goes to work, pulling samples from each bag and dropping it into a plastic bucket, which corresponds to each pile of bags.

The bucket is run to the lab and the beans are tested for flintiness, purple color, evidence of mold, and insects. Flintiness is an indication of bean immaturity. Purple color shows inadequate fermentation. Mold manifests in two ways: internally, which happens during the drying process or externally, which occurs after the beans have been purchased. The latter is not serious because the mold is on the papery shell and therefore removed during the winnowing process. To analyze a bucket of beans, 300 beans are randomly sampled and split in half, then arranged on a special board. Good quality means less than 4% mold, less than 8% flintiness/purple color.

A lab assistant cuts each bean in half and lays it on a board designed to help categorize and count the beans. A total of 300 beans are analyzed per bucket.

This is a moisture meter. Although the beans are categorized at the truck, this machine permits a more accurate read-out, usually confirming the quick results.

After the beans in a bucket have been analyzed, a sample is set aside in case the owner of the truck (a Shiite Lebanese traitant more than likely) disputes the laboratory’s findings. Money rides on the analysis, as do feelings, so the buyer protects himself by keeping the sample until the deal is closed.

At around 10 AM, we drove in the direction of Abidjan. The road was much worse than last year. We arrived around 4 PM and dropped Kate, Mark, and Stan off at the Restaurant Le Baron in Port Bouet. Evariste and I continued to his village and returned by 6 PM. We sat around and ate and drank and talked until 10 PM, then drove to the airport. We sat on our luggage until midnight, at which point we were allowed to check in for the 3 AM flight. The journey home was not too hard, although on the flight from Casablanca to NYC, a smell of smoke filled the cabin. After 15 minutes of stewards and stewardesses opening bathrooms and overhead compartments keeping a decidedly brave face, the captain came on and announced that the source of the smell had been located in an “electrical machine.” Interestingly, our breakfast was served cold. We parted in Kennedy and Stan and I flew to LAX, rented a car at midnight and drove to San Luis Obispo, where we arrived at about 5 AM--at home after a 17 day romp across the world.

Stan Thompson did not get bored waiting for Evariste and me. This is because he was enjoying his Flag, an Ivoirian beer manufactured by Solibra, a large beer-making company in Côte d'Ivoire.

*********A GREAT SADNESS AND A GREAT JOY***********
One month after our return, Stan Thompson had a massive heart attack while running. His death was virtually instant. Hundreds of people in this community mourned his passing; his spirit touched so many. Really, Stan showed that humans CAN evolve. He showed that we are after all, a world community and that we can treat each other with respect and dignity. Although I only spent two weeks with Stan, I shall always remember his positive energy and I shall emulate him.

As president of Project Hope and Fairness, I have tried to build on this tragedy. As a result of Stan's marvelous impact on our county, we were able to raise over $4,000 in Stan's memory. With that money, a roof was put on the school of Dawayo-Chantier, described later in this blog.

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